Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the alteration of the style, they continue to do this only on the eve of old Christmas-day. An honest countryman, living on the edge of St. Stephen's Down, near Launceston, Cornwall, informed me, October 28, 1790, that he once, with some others, made a trial of the truth of the above, and watching several oxen in their stalls at the above time, at twelve o'clock at night, they observed the two oldest oxen only fall upon their knees, and, as he expressed it in the idiom of the country, make 1 a cruel moan like christian creatures' I could not but with great difficulty keep my countenance: he saw, and seemed angry that I gave so little credit to his tale, and, walking off in a pettish humour, seemed to 'marvel at my unbelief.' There is an old print of the Nativity, in which the oxen in the stable, near the virgin and the child, are represented upon their knees, as in a suppliant posture. This graphic representation has probably given rise to the above superstitious notion on this head." Mr. Brand refers to " an old print," as if he had only observed one with this representation; whereas, they abound, and to the present day the ox and the" ass are in the wood-cuts of the nativity on our common Christmas carols. Sannazarius, a Latin poet of the fifteenth century, in his poem De Partu ftrginu, which he was several years in composing, and twenty years in revising, and which chiefly conributed to the celebrity of his name among the Italians, represents that the virgin wrapped up the new-born infant, and put him into her bosom; that the cattle cherished him with their breath, an ox fell on his knees, and an ass did the same. He declares them both happy, promises they shall be honoured at all the altars in Rome, and apostrophizes the virgin on occasion of the respect the ox and ass have shown her. To a quarto edition of this Latin poem, with an Italian translation by Gori, printed at Florence in 1740, there is a print inscribed "Sacrum monumentum in antiquo vitro Rome in Museo Victorio," from whence the preceding engraving is presented, as a curious illustration of the obviously ancient mode of delineating the subject.

In the edition just mentioned of Sannazarius's exceedingly curious poem,which is described in the editor's often cited volume on "Ancient Mysteries," there are other engravings of the nativity with the ox and the ass, from sculptures on

a indent sarcophagi at Rome. This introduction of the ox and the ass warming the infant in the crib with their breath, is a fanciful construction by Catholic writers on Isaiah i. 3; "The ox knoweth hu owner, and the ass his master's crib."

Sannazarius was a distinguished statesman in the kingdom of Naples. His superb tomb in the church of St. Mark is decorated with two figures originally executed for and meant to represent Apollo and Minerva; but as it appeared indecorous to admit heathen divinities into a christian church, and the figures were thought too excellent to be removed, the person who shows the church is instructed to call them David and Judith: " You mistake," said a sly rogue who was one of a party surveying the curiosities, "the figures are St. George, and the queen ot Egypt's daughter." The demonstrator made a low bow, and thanked him.'

FLORAL DIRECTORY. Frankincense. Piiiu* Tec da. Dedicated to Sts. Thratilla and Kmiliana,

Ucrtmbf r 25.

The Nativity of Christ, or Christrrtat-daji. St. Anastasia, A D. 304. Another St. Anastasia. St. Eugenia, A. D. Mr.

Cf)rfetmasi.Uap.

The festival of the nativity was anciently kept by different churches in April, May, and in this month. It is now kept on this day by every established church of christian denomination; and is a holiday all over England, observed by the suspension of all public and private business, and the congregating of friends and relations for "comfort and joy."

Our countryman, Barnaby Googe, from the Latin of Naogeorgus, gives us some lines descriptive of the old festival:—

Then comes the day wherein the Lorde

did bring his birth to passe; Whereas at midnight up they rise,

and every man to Masse. This time so holy counted is,

that divers earnestly Do thinke the waters all to wine

are chaunged sodainlv;

* Lounger's Com. Place Book.

In that same house that Christ Mmselfc

was borne, and came to light, And unto water straight againe

trar.sformde and altred quight. There are beside that mindfully

the money still do watch, That first to aultar commes, which then

they privily do snatch, rhe priestcs, least other should it have,

takes oft the same ana}-, Whereby they thinke throughout the yeare.

to have good luck in play, And not to lose: then straight at game

till day-light do they strive, To make some present proofe how well

their hallowde pence wil thrive. Three Masses every priest doth sing,

upon that solemn day. With offerings unto every one,

that so the more may play. This done, a woodden child in clowtes

is on the aultar set, About the which both boyes and gyrlcs

do daunce and trymly jet, And Carrols sing in praise of Christ,

and, for to helpe them hcare, The organs aunswere every verse

with sweete and soiemne cheare. The priestes doe rore aloude; and round

about the parentes stande To see the sport, and with their voyce

do helpe them and their hands.

The commemorations in our own times vary from the account in these versifyings. An accurate observer, with a hand powerful to seize, and a hand skilled in preserving manners, offers us a beautiful sketch of Christmas-tide in the "New Monthly Magazine," of December 1, 1825. Foremost in his picture is the most estimable, because the most useful and ornamental character in society,—a good parish priest.

"Our pastor was told one day, in argument, that the interests of Christianity were opposed to universal enlightenment. I shall not easily forget his answer. 'The interests of Christianity,' said he, ' are the same as the interests of society. It has no other meaning. Christianity is that very enlightenment you speak of. Let any man find out that thing, whatever it be, which is to perform the very greatest good to society, even to its own apparent detriment, and I say that is Christianity, or I know not the spirit of its founder. What?' continued he, ' shall we take Christianity for an arithmetical puzzle, or a contradiction in terms, or the bitterness of a bad argument, or the interests, real or supposed, of any parti

cular set of men? God forbid. I wish to speak with reverence (this conclusion struck me very much)—I wish to speak with reverence of whatever has taken place in the order of Providence. I wish to think the best of the very evils that have happened; that a good has been got out of them ; perhaps that they were even necessary to the good. But when once we have attained better means, and the others are dreaded by the benevolent, and scorned by the wise, then is the time come for throwing open the doors to all kindliness and to all knowledge, and the end of Christianity is attained in the reign of beneficence.'

"In this spirit our pastor preaches to us always, but most particularly on Christmas -day; when he takes occasion to enlarge on the character and views of the divine person who is supposed then to have been born, and sends us home more than usually rejoicing. On the north side of the church at M. are a great many holly-trees. It is from these that our dining and bed-rooms are furnished with boughs. Families take it by turns to entertain their friends. They meet early; the beef and pudding are noble; the mince-pies—peculiar; the nuts half play-things and half-eatables ; the oranges as cold and acid as they ought to be, furnishing us with a superfluity which we can afford to laugh at; the cakes indestructible; the wassail bowls generous, old English, huge, demanding ladles, threatening overflow as they come in, solid with roasted apples when set down. Towards bed-time you hear of elder-wine, and not seldom of punch. At the manorhouse it is pretty much the same as elsewhere. Girls, although they be ladies, are kissed under the misletoe. If any family among us happen to have hit upon an exquisite brewing, they send some of it round about, the squire's house included; and he does the same by the rest. Riddles, hot-cockles, forfeits, music, dances sudden and not to be suppressed, prevail among great and small; and from two o'clock in the day to midnight, M. looks like a deserted place out of doors, but is full of life and merriment within Playing at knights and ladies last year, jade of a charming creature must needs send me out for a piece of ice to put in her wine. It was evening and R hard frost. I shall never forget the cold, cutting, dreary, dead look of every thing out of doors, with a wind through the wiry trees, and the snow on the ground, contrasted with the sudden return to warmth, light, and joviality.

"I remember we had a discussion that time, as to what was the great point and crowning glory of Christmas. Many were for mince-pie; some for the beef and plum-pudding; more for the wassailbowl; a maiden lady timidly said, the misletoe; but we agreed at last, that although all these were prodigious, and some of them exclusively belonging to the season, the fire was the great indispensable. Upon which we all turned our faces towards it, and began warming our already scorched hands. A great blazing fire, too big, is the visible heart and soul of Christmas. You may do without beef and plum-pudding; even the absence of mince-pie may be tolerated; there must be a bowl, poetically speaking, but it need not be absolutely wassail. The bowl may give place to the bottle. But a huge, heaped-up, over heaped-up, allattracting fire, with a semicircle of faces about it, is not to be denied us. It is the far and genius of the meeting; the proof positive of the season; the representative of all our warm emotions and bright thoughts; the glorious eye of the room; the inciter to mirth, yet the retainer of order; the amalgamater of the age and sex; the universal relish. Tastes may differ even on a mince-pie; but who gainsays a fire? The absence of other luxuries still leaves you in possession of that; but

• Who can hold a fire in his hand
With thinking on the frostiest twclflli-
cake?'

"Let me have a dinner of some sort, no matter what, and then give me my fire, and my friends, the humblest glass of wine, and a few penn'orths of chesnuts, and I will still make out my Christmas Whatl Have we not Burgundy in our blood? Have we not joke, laughter, repartee, bright eyes, comedies of other people, and comedies of our own; songs, memories, hopes? [An organ strikes up in the street at this word, as if to answer me in the affirmative. Right, thou old spirit of harmony, wandering about in that ark of thine, and touching the public ear with sweetness and an abstraction! Let the multitude bustle on, but not unarrested by thee and by others, and not unreminded of the happiness of renewing a wise childhood.\ As to our old friends

the chesnuts, if any body wants an excuse to his dignity for roasting them, let him fake the authority of Milton. 'Who now,' says he, lamenting the loss of his friend Deodati,—4 who now will help to soothe my cares for me, and make the long night seem short with his conversation; while the roasting pear hisses tenderly on the fire, and the nuts burst away with a noise,—

■ And out of doors a washing storm over whelms

Nature pitch-dark, and rides the thundering elms?'"

Christmas in France.

From a newspaper of 1823, (the name unfortunately no' noted at the time, and not immediately ascertainable), it appears that Christmas in France is another thing from Christmas in England.

"The habits and customs of the Parisians vary much from those of our own metropolis at all times, but at no time more than at this festive season. An Englishman in Paris, who had been for some time without referring to his almanac, would not know Christmas-day from another by the appearance of the capital. It is, indeed, set down as a jour de fete in the calendar, but all the ordinary business of life is transacted; the streets are, as usual, crowded with waggons and coaches; the shops, with few exceptions, are open, although on other fete days the order for closing them is rigorously enforced, and if not attended to, a fine levied; and at the churches nothing extraordinary is going forward. All this is surprising in a catholic country, which professes to pay such attention to the outward rites of religion.

"On Christmas eve indeed, there is some bustle for a midnight mass, to which immense numbers flock, as the priests, on this occasion, get up a showy spectacle which rivals the theatres. The altars are dressed with flowers, and the churches decorated profusely; but there is little in all this to please men who have been accustomed to the John Bull mode of spending the evening. The good English habit of meeting together to forgive offences and injuries, and to cement reconciliations, is here unknown. The French listen to the church music, and to the singing of their choirs, which is generally excellent, but they know nothing of the origin of the day and of the duties which it imposes. The English residents in Paris, however, do not forget our mode of celebrating this day. Acts of charity from the rich to the needy, religious attendance at church, and a full observance of hospitable rites, are there witnessed. Paris furnishes all the requisites for a good pudding, and the turkeys are excellent, though the beef is not to be displayed as prize production.

"On Chrutmas-duy all the English cooks in Paris are in full business. The queen of cooks, however, is Harriet Dunn, of the Boulevard.—As sir Astley Cooper among the cutters of limbs, and d'Egville among the cutters of capers, so is Harriet Dunn among the professors of one of the most necessary, and in its results, most gratifying professions of existence; her services are secured beforehand by special retainers; and happy is the peer who can point to his pudding, and declare that it is of the true " Dunn" composition. Her fame has even extended to the provinces. For some time previous to Christmas-day, she forwards puddings in cases to all parts of the country, ready cooked and fit for the table, after the necessary warming. All this is, of course, for the English. No prejudice can be stronger than that of the French against plum-pudding—a Frenchman will dress like an Englishman, swear like an Englishman, and get drunk like an Englishman; but if you would offend him for ever, compel him to eat plum- pudding. A few of the leading restaurateurs, wishing to appear extraordinary, have plombpooding upon their cartes, but in no instance is it ever ordered by a Frenchman. Every body has heard the story of St. Louis—Henri Quatre, or whoever else it might be, who, wishing to regale the English ambassador on Christmasday with a plumb-pudding, procured an excellent recipe for making one, which he gave to his cook, with strict injunctions that it should be prepared with due attention to all the particulars. The weight of the ingredients, the size of the copper, the quantity of water, the duration of time, every thing was attended to except one trifle—the king forgot the cloth, and the pudding was served up like so much soup, in immense tureens, to the surprise of the ambassador, who was, however, too well bred to express his astonishment. Louis X VIII., either to snow his contempt of the prejudices of his countrymen, or to keep up a custom which suits his palate, has always an enormous pudding on

Christmas-day, the remains of which, when it leaves the table, he requires to be eaten by the servants, 6011 gre", mmtvah gre; but in this instance even the commands of sovereignty are disregarded, except by the numerous English in his service, consisting of several valets, grooms, coachmen, &c, besides a great number of ladies' maids, in the service of the duchesses of Angouleme and Beni, who very frequently partake of the dainties of the king's table."

The following verses from the original in old Norman French, are said to be the first drinking song composed in England. They seem to be an abridged version of the Christmas carol in Anglo-Norman French, translated by Mr Douce :—

Lordlings, from a distant home.
To seek old Christmas are we come.

Who loves our minstrelsy—
And here, unless report mis-say,
The greybeard dwells; and on this day
Keeps yearly wassel, ever gay

With festive mirth and glee.

Lordlings, list, for we tell you true ,
Christmas loves the jolly crew.

That cloudy care defy:
His liberal board is deftly spread.
With manchet loaves and wastel bread .
His guests with fish and flesh are led.

Nor lack the stately pye.

Lordlings, it is our host's command,
And Christmas joins him hand in hand.

To drain the brimming bowl;
And I'll b'Voremost to obey—
Then ple^e me, sirs, and drink away
For Christmas revels here to-day

And sways without controul.
Now tram/to you all! and merry may you be,
And foul that wight befall, who drink) not
health to me.

There were anciently great doings in the halls of the inns of court at Christmas time. At the Inner-Temple early in the morning, the gentlemen of the inn went to church, and after the service they did then "presently repair into the hall to breakfast with brawn, mustard, and malmsey." At the first course at dinner, was " served in, a fair and largeBore'* head upon a silver platter with minstralsye.''•

* DiiKdale's Orig. Jurid.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« ZurückWeiter »